Gila River Indian Community Receives $4.4 Million Grant to Expand Broadband as Federal Officials Announce $77 Million In New Tribal Infrastructure Resources
May 06, 2022
Communications & Public Affairs Office
Gila River Indian Community
SACATON, AZ. - The Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) is among 19 tribes in 10 states nationwide to share in nearly $77 million in federal grants meant to improve broadband service and better connect residents and businesses across Indian Country.
The Community’s $4.4 million grant was announced on Wednesday, May 4 during a press conference featuring Special Representative for Broadband Andy Berke of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Rep. Ruben Gallego, GRIC Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, and Gila River District 5 Councilman James De La Rosa.
The grants, funded by the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, will be used to improve broadband for tribal communities in Arizona, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington. The grants will fund broadband use and adoption projects to improve healthcare, workforce development, education, housing, and social services in tribal communities.
“This $4.4 million in funding is vital for the Community, because it will allow us to take the next steps toward digital equity,” said Gov. Lewis. “We plan to expand access to affordable broadband programs throughout the Community and to create opportunities for all of our members to utilize technology in their everyday lives, whether that is for work, school, healthcare, or just to stay connected to each other.”
Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego called the grant critical to improving technology across Indian Country. “The pandemic underscored the critical need for increased broadband access in communities across Arizona,” said Rep. Gallego, “especially in Indian Country, where citizens have historically been the most disconnected. NTIA’s announcement and the Gila River Indian Community’s leadership under Governor Lewis is a critical step to closing this gap, improving connectivity, and removing burdensome barriers to health care, education, and economic opportunity. I look forward to continuing my long partnership with the Community and seeing the success stories that come from Gila River’s use of these funds for services for their members.”
Councilman De La Rosa, who began his career in the tech sector, spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted broadband and technology deficiencies in his more rural district.
“At a time when the pandemic forced us into our homes for school, work, and our everyday activities, the technology deficiencies became all too apparent,” said the Councilman. “Today’s award, coupled with the Community’s long-term plans for broadband connectivity, education, and training, will help to create the infrastructure we need to put in place the comprehensive, integrated plan that we have long envisioned.”
Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran, whose First District includes multiple tribal communities, also hailed the ARPA grants.
“Closing the digital divide starts with connecting areas that have long been left behind, like far too many tribal communities in Arizona’s First District,” said O’Halleran. “Governor Lewis and I both know just how important high-speed, affordable broadband is to the holistic success of the Gila River Indian Community—that’s why I couldn’t be more pleased to see long-overdue funding I voted to secure headed to GRIC to connect families, health centers, and small businesses. I’m looking forward to continuing to work together on this issue.”